“That sounds great. Let’s hop on a quick Zoom and I can give you the info.”
Over the past year, few words have invoked more ennui in employees. These impromptu virtual meetings have replaced “let’s go to my office” in introducing a sense of lethargy.
But the problem isn’t Zoom itself. Rather, it’s that reactive and sporadic internal communication usually isn’t engaging. One attendee is frantically scarfing down breakfast; another has turned their video off completely. They’re disengaged with what’s going on virtually in front of them.
Digital workplaces have introduced several new challenges. Keeping employees engaged on a regular basis is chief among them. Unengaged employees cost companies between $450 billion and $550 billion a year; ignoring this issue has harmful effects on a company’s bottom line.
So, what’s a company to do? Simple: make the employee experience a priority.
The cost of onboarding and unproductivity
Onboarding an employee isn’t easy. Recruiting, interviewing, paperwork, training, equipment—it all adds up quickly. The average cost of hiring and onboarding just one employee is over $4,000. That’s a conservative estimate since there are additional hidden costs associated with onboarding.
Effectiveness is another consideration. So many companies add to new hire overwhelm, putting together day-long trainings and hefty welcome packets and throwing large amounts of information at new hires.
Starting a new job is exciting, but also a bit frightening. It’s easy to feel weighted down, particularly if information is presented in an unstructured way. Employees may struggle to stay connected in our new digital and remote workforce.
The same is true for keeping existing employees productive in this environment. Today’s workforce is feeling a sense of Groundhog Day. They wake up, walk to their living rooms, open their laptops, sit there all day, go to bed and repeat the next day.
Companies may not put much thought into internal comms because employees will already be in front of their computers. But after reading emails and joining Zoom meetings all day, employees don’t want to sit in another all-staff meeting or read a lengthy employee newsletter. As a result, they may miss important updates on company procedures or regular trainings, causing inefficiencies down the road.
That unengaged workforce could also lead to more turnover, and the cycle starts all over again. Gallup ran a recent meta-analysis of the workplace on over 2.7 million employees across 96 countries. Companies scoring in the top quartile of employee engagement experienced 81% less absenteeism, 43% less turnover and 41% fewer quality defects.
Instead, why not turn to alternatives that are not only more effective, but will also excite employees?
Embrace new media
Savvy companies are already taking cues from the consumer landscape, creating new “listen and watch” channels. Think more Netflix, less web pages. Rather than a stream of information—most of which may not apply to their particular role—employees can pick and choose from valuable content in a show-episode format. With the right modern medium, like a subscription-based podcast, there’s little effort required for employees to consume important information.
We’ll also see businesses becoming smarter about what they’re serving employees. Advanced user and streaming analytics can track what employees are most interested in and make recommendations or tailor new content accordingly in multiple formats. With good reason: audio and video content have more impact than the written word, boosting engagement by an impressive 65%, and—as noted psychology professor Albert Mehrabian taught us—offering 500%+ more meaning.
Don’t eliminate written content entirely. Most find it’s a good complement to audio and video in the form of show notes and helpful resource links. The key is to consider how we take in content as consumers. Embracing similar communication habits will better engage your employees.
You want to keep employees informed without disrupting workflow. That starts by being mindful of their schedules.
Give employees their time back
The largely digital and hybrid workforce has introduced considerations that weren’t always top of mind. Now, employees are across time zones or on different schedules. You may be a productive morning person, but your colleagues may have to get kids ready for school, walk a dog and run early errands. They might find more time and focus during the evening. Other industries, like retail or hospitality, have hourly workers and aren’t all available at once.
So, here’s a bold—albeit slightly scary—move for company leaders: don’t force internal comms into certain parts of the day. Instead, let employees securely engage on their “found” time.
If you insist employees attend all meetings, you’re bludgeoning the employee experience. They’re already coming in annoyed or stressed about other work or personal tasks they could be completing during this time instead.
What if you did those same status update meetings via an internal podcast? You could source questions beforehand to make sure you’re covering what employees want to hear, only now you’re letting them experience it during their free pockets of time. Your manager is getting the need-to-know info, and it’ll be more impactful as it’s absorbed through on-demand content channels that are more in-line with how the world consumes information today.
Internal comms should be a key focus for any business, especially in our more remote world. The companies that invest in employee engagement will benefit from a more productive workforce and less turnover—both of which will pay dividends to their bottom line.